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Anatomy and Art Research Guide

Anatomy Books for Artists

Along with life drawing and the study of antique sculpture, knowledge of anatomy was long considered essential for an artist’s ability to represent the human form. From the Renaissance onward, artists turned to doctors for instruction and even picked up the dissecting knife themselves. They made casts from flayed bodies and drawings of dissections, and they modeled écorché statues—figures with the skin removed in order to display the muscles. Anatomy was included in the curriculum of the first art academies and remained a core element of artistic education for centuries. Some artists owned anatomy books or consulted anatomical illustrations in printed drawing manuals. In the 17th century, the first anatomical atlases specifically for artists appeared, and are still being published today. Early examples dealt mainly with the bones and muscles, often simply identifying structures by name and giving a brief description of function.

Authored both by artists and by anatomists or surgeons, many anatomy books for artists were connected to art academies. While some illustrations were entirely original and offered poses and gestures that could be directly incorporated into artistic compositions (e.g., Cesi 1679; Monnet 1774), many copied general anatomy books, notably Andreas Vesalius’s De humani corporis fabrica libri septem (1543) and Bernhard Siegfried Albinus’s Tabulae sceleti et musculorum corporis humani (1747). 

The following lists are a selection of publications from Getty Library’s Special Collections with descriptions and secondary source publications which are helpful starting points for further research.

Monnet, Charles. Études d’anatomie à l’usage des peintresParis: Demarteau, 1774. Getty Research Institute, 84-B28065. Click on the image to view a digitized copy of the book. 

Click on the image to view a digitized copy of the book. Click on the title to view the Getty Library's catalog record.


Van der Gracht, Jacob. Anatomie der wtterlicke deelen van het menschelick lichaem. The Hague: Jacob van der Gracht, 1634.

An early anatomy book for artists by the Dutch artist Van der Gracht (1593–1652) that was also marketed to medical practitioners.








Tortebat, François [and Roger de Piles]. Abregé d’anatomie, accommodé aux arts de peinture et de sculpture, et mis dans un order nouveau, dont la methode est tres-facile, & débarassée de toutes les difficultez & choses inutiles, qui ont toûjours esté un grand obstacle aux peintres, pour arriver à la perfection de leur art. Paris: Tortebat, 1668.

A collaboration of the printmaker Tortebat and that art theorist and artist de Piles, it is the earliest anatomy book devoted solely to artists and is dedicated to the Académie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture, Paris.







Cesi, Carlo. Cognitione de muscoli del corpo humano per il disegno. Rome: Francesco Collignon, 1679.

Painter and printmaker Carlo Cesi (ca. 1622–1682) served as lecturer on anatomy and later as director of the Accademia di San Luca, an artists’ academy in Rome. In terms of number of editions, his anatomy book for artists was one of the most successful of the genre. The Getty Library has a German edition of 1759, based on an earlier edition by German artist Johann Daniel Preissler.







Bonaveri, Domenico. Notomie di Titiano. [Bologna]: n.p., ca. 1685–90.

The illustrations, produced for the use of artists, are engraved copies in reverse of woodcuts first published in Andreas Vesalius’s De humani corporis fabrica libri septem of 1543. The designs were once thought to be by the Venetian artist Titian (ca. 1488–1576), hence the title.







Genga, Bernardino, and Giovanni Maria Lancisi. Anatomia per uso et intelligenza del disegno, ricercato non solo su gl’ossi, e muscoli del corpo humano; ma dimostrata ancora su le statue antiche più insigni. Rome: Domenico de Rossi, 1691.

Illustrated with engravings after Charles Errard (ca. 1606/9–1689) for the Académie de France in Rome, the plates feature anatomical interpretations of antique sculpture. The surgeon Bernardino Genga (1636–1695) for many years lectured in anatomy at the Académie.





Genga, Bernardino, and Giovanni Maria Lancisi. Anatomy Improv’d and Illustrated with Regard to the Uses Thereof in Designing: Not Only Laid Down from an Examen of the Bones and Muscles of the Human Body, but Also Demonstrated and Exemplified from the Most Celebrated Antique Statues in Rome. London: John Senex, 1723.

An English translation of Genga and Lancisi (1691) with reengraved plates.







Brisbane, John. The Anatomy of Painting; or, A Short and Easy Introduction to Anatomy: Being a New Edition, on a Smaller Scale, of Six Tables of Albinus, with Their Linear Figures; Also, a New Translation of Albinus’s History of That Work, and of His Index to the Six Tables; To Which Are Added the Anatomy of Celsus, with Notes, and the Physiology of Cicero; With an Introduction, Giving a Short View of Picturesque Anatomy. London: George Scott, 1769.

The Scottish physician Brisbane (ca. 1720–ca. 1776) was a strong proponent of anatomical illustration as an introduction to the study of anatomy for physicians, artists, and dilettantes, considering it a “much shorter, more easy, and agreeable” method than dissection alone. Brisbane himself provided copies after Albinus’s Tabulae sceleti et musculorum corporis humani (1747) for the illustrations and his self-portrait is found on the title page.



Monnet, Charles. Études d’anatomie à l’usage des peintres. Paris: Demarteau, 1774.

Monnet (1732–after 1808) held the opinion that only an artist could effectively teach another artist about anatomy. The crayon manner illustrations printed in red ink were engraved by Gilles Demarteau (1722–76) after Monnet.






Gamelin, Jacques. Nouveau recueil d’ostéologie et de myologie, dessiné d’après nature . . . pour l’utilité des sciences et des arts. Toulouse: J. F. Desclassan, 1779.

In this two-volume work dealing with the bones and the muscles Gamelin (1738–1803), an artist from Toulouse, deliberately chose “unusual” poses for his figures to best display the muscles.







Ploos van Amstel, Cornelis. Aanleiding tot de kennis der anatomie, in de tekenkunst, betreklyk tot het menschbeeld. Amsterdam: J. Yntema, 1783.

The text derives from lectures which van Amstel (1726–1798), a noted collector and printmaker, gave to the Stadstekenacademie in Amsterdam, of which he was co-director, in 1768 and 1770. For the illustrations, some printed in different tones of red to denoting muscle and bone, Ploos van Amstel received permission from the Leiden-based anatomist Bernhard Siegfried Albinus (1687-1770) to copy the Tabulae sceleti et musculorum corporis humani (1747).






Walker, John. The Artist’s Pocket Companion: Being a Compendious Treatise of Anatomy, Adapted to the Arts of Designing, Painting, and Sculpture. 2nd ed. London: John Walker, 1787.

In the preface, the author promotes the small and portable size of his book as handier for the students of the Royal Academy of Arts in London than an earlier and much larger book by the printmaker John Tinney (ca. 1706–1761) on which it is based.





Bouchardon, Edme. L’anatomie nécessaire pour l’usage du dessein. Paris: Chéreau & Joubert, [1787–89].

First published in 1741, the illustrations are based on drawings by Edme Bouchardon (1698–1762) and his brother Jacques Philippe (1711–1753), both sculptors.








Lavater, J. H. Élémens anatomiques d'ostéologie et de myologie a l'usage des peintres et sculpteurs. Paris: Veuve Tilliard; Zürich: Ziegler et fils; Basel: J.J. Thourneisen, [1797].

Dedicated by the Swiss physician Lavater to his friend and fellow countryman Henry Fuseli (1741–1825), the Élémens anatomiques is a translation of the first German edition of 1790. The illustrations are based on those in Cornelis Ploos van Amstel’s Aanleiding tot de kennis der anatomie (1783).







Kirtland, George. Anatomical plates of the bones and muscles of the extremities of the human body; with explanatory maps. London: John Murray, 1805.

The illustrations, some hand-colored, are after details taken from Albinus’s Tabulae sceleti et musculorum corporis humani (1747).









Bell, Charles. Essays on the Anatomy of Expression in Painting. London: Longman, Hurst, Rees, and Orme, 1806.

The Scottish physiologist and surgeon Charles Bell (1774–1842), like his brother John, provided his own illustrations for his works on anatomy. The painter Benjamin Robert Haydon (1786–1846) recommended his students to Bell’s anatomy lectures at Great Windmill Street.




Del Medico, Giuseppe. Anatomia per uso dei pittori e scultori. Rome: Vincenzo Poggioli, 1811.

Del Medico (1772–1825), a professor of surgery, dedicated this book to the Accademia di San Luca in Rome, where he lectured on anatomy to its artist members.








Salvage, Jean-Galbert. Anatomie du gladiateur combattant, applicable aux beaux arts; ou, Traité des os, des muscles, du mécanisme des mouvemens, des proportions et des caractères du corps humain. Paris: Jean-Galbert Salvage & l’imprimerie de Mame, 1812.

A surgeon in the French army, Jean-Galbert Salvage (1770–1813) based his book on the antique sculpture the Borghese Gladiator, one of the most admired artistic works of antiquity, for which he supplied his own drawings. The first plate, seen here, is an anatomical consideration of the head of the Apollo Belvedere.



Sharpe, James Birch. Elements of Anatomy; Designed for the Use of Students in the Fine Arts. London: R. Hunter, 1818.

The English surgeon Sharpe (1789–1863) dedicated his book to the artist Henry Fuseli, Keeper of the Royal Academy of Arts, where Sharpe briefly studied. Some of the illustrations, by Joseph Severn (1793-1879), were inspired by antique sculpture. This plate is an adaptation of the Ludovisi Gaul.







Flaxman, John. Anatomical Studies of the Bones and Muscles, for the Use of Artists, from Drawings by the Late John Flaxman; Engraved by Henry Landseer; with Two Additional Plates; and Explanatory notes, by William Robertson. London: M. A. Nattali, 1833.

A posthumous publication of anatomical drawings by the British sculptor and draftsman John Flaxman (1755–1826).




Squanquerillo, Costantino. Trattato di anatomia pittorica. Rome: Tipografia delle Belle Arti, 1841.

Unusual for an anatomy book for artists, Squanquerillo includes some illustrations of the internal organs (some copied from Del Medico 1811) and concludes the book with figures of equine anatomy.








Rimmer, William. Art Anatomy. Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, 1884.

Rimmer (1816–1879) was a sculptor and painter who practiced medicine in Boston and gave lectures on anatomy for artists.




Fau, Julien. Anatomie artistique élémentaire du corps humain. 5th ed. Paris: J. B. Baillière et fils, [1890].

First published in 1850. Fau, a physician, was also the author of a book on surface anatomy: Anatomie des formes extérieures du corps humain, à l'usage des peintres et des sculpteurs (1845).








Duval, Mathias. Précis d'anatomie à l'usage des artistes. Paris: Librairies-imprimeries réunies [1891].

Duval (1844–1907) based his book on the lectures he gave as professor of anatomy at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris over the previous 20 years.






Schadow, Gottfried. Lehre von den Knochen und Muskeln: von den Verhaeltnissen des  menschlichen Koerpers und von den Verkuerzungen. In dreissig Tafeln zum Gebrauch bei der Koeniglichen Akademie der Kuenste. Berlin: E. Wasmuth, 1892.

By the German sculptor Schadow (1764–1850), this book which first appeared in 1830 also draws on Albinus’s Tabulae sceleti et musculorum corporis humani (1747) for the illustrations.



Bridson, Gavin D. R., and James J. White. Plant, Animal and Anatomical Illustration in Art and Science: A Bibliographical Guide from the 16th Century to the Present Day. Winchester, UK: St. Paul’s Bibliographies, 1990.

Choulant, Ludwig. History and Bibliography of Anatomic Illustration. First edition originally published 1852. Rev. ed., translated by Mortimer Frank. New York: Schuman’s, 1945.

Kornell, Monique. “The Study of the Human Machine: Books of Anatomy for Artists.” In Mimi Cazort, Mimi, Monique Kornell, and K. B. Roberts. The Ingenious Machine of Nature: Four Centuries of Art and Anatomy. Exhibition catalog. Ottawa: National Gallery of Canada, 1996, 43–70.

Kornell, Monique. Flesh and Bones: The Art of Anatomy. Exhibition catalog. Los Angeles: Getty Research Institute, 2022.

Röhrl, Boris. History and Bibliography of Artistic Anatomy: Didactics for Depicting the Human Figure. Hildesheim: Olms, 2000.